Santa Cruz is the second largest island in the Galapagos archipelago while Puerto Ayora, its capital, is the largest urban center in the archipelago. If exploring Santa Cruz is part of your trip itinerary, you’ve got plenty of options, as the island is bursting with wildlife and natural wonders. Among the most exciting of the activities to do from Santa Cruz are the specialized daily tours that depart from Puerto Ayora towards the most beautiful uninhabited islands in the archipelago.
Here’s a list of the uninhabited island you may visit as day trips from Puerto Aroya, Santa Cruz and a brief description of what you may find on each.
Santa Fe Island
With over 4 million years old of volcanic rock, Santa Fe is one of the oldest islands in the archipelago. It will take approximately an hour to travel from Puerto Ayora to one of the most beautiful bays you will ever see. Wander through the isolated beach that is home to many sea lions and then hike through Opuntia Cactus trees where you will find Barrington (or Santa Fe) Land Iguanas, a species unique to the island.
Weathered cliffs provide a haven for swallow-tailed gulls, red-billed tropic birds, shearwaters petrels. Finally, go back to the beach to enjoy the pristine, turquoise waters where you will witness rays, sea turtles, Galapagos sharks and a whole lot of fish from the surface which makes it excellent for swimming and snorkeling.
Difficulty of the excursion: Moderate – Open water snorkeling, moderate hiking.
North Seymour Island
Enjoy a lovely day exploring North Seymour Island. Located 2km from Canal Itabaca, which is a 45-minute ride from Puerto Ayora, it is one of the best places to hike in the Galapagos. The nature trail will take you through some of the largest seabird colonies of frigate birds and Blue-footed Boobies in the Galapagos Islands, as well as other tropical birds.
Visit at the right time of the year and observe these birds’ mating rituals. Stop at Bachas Beach for some snorkeling and take a side trip to small lagoons to find flamingos. Just the wildlife alone makes North Seymour one of the most popular day tours from Santa Cruz.
Difficulty of the excursion: Moderate. You will be expected to hike over unpaved trails and rocks. Dry and wet landing transfers from motor yacht to panga. Open water snorkel activity.
Located 2 hours from Puerto Ayora by boat is one of the youngest islands in the archipelago, Isla Bartolome. Here you will hike approximately 115 mASL (meters above sea level) to reach the summit of the island where you will see a breathtaking panoramic view, as well the island’s most recognized landmark, The Pinnacle Rock.
It is surrounded by water along with very impressive wildlife. Walk along a beautiful pink and white sand beach popular with nesting turtles and snorkel with Galapagos penguins, sea lions and turtles, and tropical fishes.
Difficulty of the excursion: Moderate to Severe. You will be required to walk on wooden boardwalk with 300 steps to summit. There is also dry landing from motor yacht to panga. Open water snorkeling activity. Read more about a full day trip to Batrolomé.
South Plaza Island
Off the east coast is half of a pair of islets where Sea Lions, Land Iguanas, Sally Lightfoot Crabs, and various nesting seabirds thrive. With an area of 13 hectares and a height of 25 mASL (meters above sea level), South Plaza is home to one of the largest colonies of California Sea Lion.
On land, you can observe the smallest subspecies of iguanas that exist in Galapagos feeding on the yellow flowers of Opuntia. The trail will take you to steep banks where you will see Swallow-tailed Gulls, Red-billed Tropicbirds, Audubon’s Shearwaters, Nazca and Blue-footed Boobies, Frigates and more and enjoy the panoramic views, the unique geology and flora & fauna. You can end your day trip with a refreshing snorkel just outside Canal Itabaca.
Difficulty of the excursion: Moderate. You will take a two mile hike over unpaved trails and rocks. Dry landing transfer from motor yacht to panga. Open water snorkeling activity. Read more on a day trip to South Plazas.
**Tips on what to Bring to a Day trip from Puerto Ayora: walking shoes or walking sandals, hat, sunscreen, snorkel gear, bathing suit, extra socks just in case and light jacket for the return trip. Don’t forget your camera, these locations are among the most beautiful sights in the archipelago.
So, now you know, when visitng Santa Cruz make sure you make at least one of these part of you itinerary, they are a most-vist and an unfogettable sight.